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Vol. XIV, No. 20. September 27, 1917 

The Journal of Philosophy 
Psychology and Scientific Methods 



A CRITICISM OF COORDINATION AS CRITERION OF 
MORAL VALUE 

WE wish to distinguish between organization and coordination 
of interests. By interest we shall ordinarily understand 
response of the organism to its environment, but the term is suffi- 
ciently neutral to be applied to introspective analysis as well as to 
behavioristic description. To reduce interests, responses, acts of 
attention, motor attitudes, activities, tendencies, dispositions or what- 
ever you wish to call them, to a system does not necessarily mean 
to reduce them to harmony. A system of activities may include and 
require as one of its constitutive factors a certain conflict between 
its members. Football is a game consisting of a certain organiza- 
tion of activities, but it is an organized conflict. Coordination 
means harmony, but, according to the view which we shall hope to 
defend in this article, organization does not. We accept organiza- 
tion, but reject coordination as criterion of moral value. 

We can not find a better statement of the principle of organiza- 
tion than in the Moral Economy: 1 "Morality is that procedure in 
which several interests, whether they involve one or more physical 
organisms, are so adjusted as to function as one interest." This 
statement we adopt with a proviso, which we do not think conflicts 
with the principle involved. The proviso is that the adjustment 
which enables the subordinate interests to function as one is not 
necessarily a harmony; it may be a certain status of sustained an- 
tagonism or balanced interplay of motor attitudes. Activities are 
organized if they are held in such a relation as to sustain a higher 
interest. But this relation which satisfies the super-interest may be 
one of mutual obstruction, not of unanimity. 

Harmony as the supreme principle of morality is based upon a 
more fundamental requirement, namely, any act is moral which 
tends to increase the total magnitude of positive value. The aim of 
moral endeavor is the utmost possible expansion of every kind of 
good, meaning by good the satisfaction of any human interest what- 

i B. B. Perry, p. 14. 

533 



534 THE JOURNAL OF PHILOSOPHY 

soever. The reason why the fulfilment of some interests is morally 
evil is because these interests tend to diminish the total range of 
satisfaction. Now harmony is upheld as the mark of excellence 
because it means, ipso facto, that the several activities involved are 
not obstructed and that, consequently, there is no diminution of that 
value which inheres in their complete fulfilment. All conflict is 
evil because it means that two or more interests are preventing each 
other from that full measure of satisfaction which each would enjoy 
if they were delivered from this condition of mutual frustration. 

To present the matter in this way is to reduce the project of 
human life to a beautiful simplicity. But it is artificial. Harmony 
and maximum value cease to be identical when there is discovered 
in human nature an ineradicable interest which can not be satisfied 
save in the balanced interplay of antagonistic impulses. When the 
existence of such an interest is granted, the question whether in any 
given case harmony is morally better than antagonism will depend 
upon the further question whether the satisfaction of this para- 
doxical interest will yield greater or less value than the satisfaction 
of the mutually frustrating tendencies. If the paradoxical interest 
represents more value than would inhere in the harmonious work- 
ing of the conflicting interests, harmony would be an evil, and con- 
tinuation of the conflict good, because harmony would diminish the 
total magnitude of positive value while conflict would increase it. 

A preliminary and very cursory statement may be given of the 
nature of this interest which perpetuates itself through conflict. 
It is interest in the growth of the idea of reality, regardless of what 
the nature of that reality may be. It is the desire to compass a 
certain range of human experience, however much pain and conflict 
may lie within its bounds. It appears in that phrase : Let nothing 
human be alien to me. To enter into all that is human means to 
enter into a vast amount of conflict. But it goes even farther than 
that. It is the passion of Faust to explore the ultimate limits of all 
possible experience and to venture beyond the frontiers of human 
spirit. It is an interest which appears in science, in speculative 
philosophy, in art, in love, but above all in religion. In so far 
as experience involves conflict โ€” and most experience does โ€” this 
interest feeds upon conflict. Hence, to eliminate conflict would 
mean to frustrate this interest. 

Professor Holt says in his Freudian Wish (p. 199) : "For 
behaviorism there is one unbroken integration series from reflex 
action to behavior, conduct, moral action, and the unified soul." 
We, on the contrary, would maintain that this series turns a corner 
at the point where the individual becomes capable of conceiving 
and valuing a certain "universe" of experience merely because he 



PSYCHOLOGY AND SCIENTIFIC METHODS 535 

believes it to be the experience of another person. This is a case of 
love of reality for its own sake. For instance, to adopt a case used 
by Professor Holt, a boy may refrain from using tobacco at his 
father's behest, not merely because his "truth-telling father" is a 
danger signal for him like a signboard, "a thermometer, a clock, a 
seismograph, or an encyclopedia," but because the words of his 
father mark out a certain range of experience which the two can 
share in common, namely, the experience of refraining from the 
use of tobacco. This experience becomes in itself an object of inde- 
pendent value. It is valued because it is believed to be community 
with another personality. 

This new departure in the integration series, as we hope to show, 
introduces a radical change in the mode of integration whenever it 
is operative. Here is where interpersonal communion first begins. 
At this point it is most proper, we think, to begin to speak of 
personality or soul. Also at this point coordination ceases to be the 
sole condition of integration or organization, since in order to par- 
ticipate in some desired experience it may be necessary to sustain a 
certain status of antagonistic reaction precisely because the valued 
experience consists of such a state of uncoordination. 

This new principle may be applied to moral procedure. "Ful- 
filment of a simple isolated interest is good ; but only the fufilment 
of an organization of interests is morally good. ' ' 2 But this organiza- 
tion may be accomplished in either of two ways. The first is to so 
coordinate antagonistic activities that each may function without 
disturbing the other. The second way is to sustain a continuous 
conflict of tendencies and thereby fulfil that creative interest which 
seeks the progressive expansion and diversity of experience. 

But not all antagonisms can be subordinated to the function of 
creating some desired experience. We will distinguish conflict which 
is destructive to value from that which is creative of value by call- 
ing the one external, the other internal. Internal conflict may take 
place between two individuals. By that we mean that while the 
two persons disagree, they understand each other. Each mind 
comprehends the total purpose of the other, although the two pur- 
poses are antagonistic. To do this each person must reproduce in 
imagination the mind of the other ; he must be able to imagine him- 
self in the other man's place. All mutual interpretation, all in- 
telligent conversation and discussion is more or less of this sort. 
But to imaginatively reproduce in my own mind the purpose of 
another, means that I must actually incorporate in my own organism 
the other man's purpose. I must assume the motor attittude of that 
purpose ; and that means that it becomes one of the impulses which 

2 E. B. Perry, The Moral Economy, p. 15. 



536 THE JOURNAL OF PHILOSOPHY 

I experience. Inasmuch as I retain my own system of interests, but 
at the same time embody that of the other man, the antagonism 
between the two is an internal conflict. 

Such a conflict develops the two antagonistic systems. Bach 
learns something from the other. Bach is stimulated to develop 
new lines of activity in opposition to the other, and to take over 
something from the other. This is illustrated by any discussion or 
intelligent argument which does not degenerate into mere contention. 
A political campaign is a good example of such a conflict. We all 
acquire a more vivid consciousness of national issues, are led into 
new regions of political experience, by such antagonisms, and gen- 
erally the more intense the conflict, the more fruitful it is in 
awakening us to consciousness of the interests of our communal ex- 
istence. So we say that internal conflict is creative of new experi- 
ence; it brings new horizons into view; it increases the range and 
multiplicity of interests in which the individual engages. Hence, in 
so far as growth of experience is valued for its own sake, internal 
conflict has intrinsic value as being the process of that growth. 

External conflict appears when there is no imaginative repro- 
duction by each opponent of the other's purpose. Men in trenches 
shooting one another down with machine guns are not engaged in 
creative antagonism. But between the opposing generals or other 
strategists the conflict is internal, inasmuch as strife between these 
officials consists of their mutual comprehension of one another's 
purposes to a degree, and of the plans and counterplans which are 
made. Between them it is as truly a form of play and has as much 
creative value as a game of chess. But whenever two or more dis- 
tinct physical organisms are opposed to each other, without a motor 
attitude in each which represents the purpose of the other, the con- 
flict is external and has no intrinsic moral value. 

On the other hand, as we have seen, that internal conflict may 
appear in the case of interaction between two individuals, external 
conflict may apply to the incompatibility of desires within the single 
organism when no other individual is concerned. A conflict is ex- 
ternal when the summation of stimulation, accumulated by reason 
of the mutual obstruction of two neural processes, does not dis- 
charge freely into the cortex in such a way as to cause an active 
play of the creative imagination. Precisely so far as this concen- 
tration of energy at the point of obstruction is not drained off im- 
mediately into the cortex, and there diffused without congestion at 
any point, the whole process is dissatisfying and there is total loss 
of value. But so far as these conditions are fulfilled, there is total 
gain in value, providing this creative play of the imagination is 
valued. 



PSYCHOLOGY AND SCIENTIFIC METHODS 537 

An illustration may serve to make the matter plainer. When 
a man finds himself in the midst of a burning building a certain 
instinct is aroused which we call flight. The sensation of heat and 
darting flames stimulates to activity a certain coordinated response 
to which the organism is innately adapted, or, in any case, has become 
so wrought in habit as to function automatically. This coordinated 
and largely automatic response consists of energetic efforts to get 
out of the building by the shortest route. But if at the first impulse 
to flight he discovers that his hands and feet are immovably bound, 
the neural process finds that the well-worn path of ordinary dis- 
charge is closed and there is consequently a massing of neural energy 
which, finding no outlet, produces the feeling of extreme disagree- 
ableness such as acute fear, horror, and the like. But from personal 
accounts of those who have had such experiences, and perhaps from 
reminiscences of our own, we know that a further condition may 
arise. Men under such circumstances, we are told, sometimes have 
"all their past life pass before them" in vivid imagery; or a scin- 
tillating play of image and idea about some past or present situa- 
tion. Such experiences can only be due to the discharge of amassed 
stimulation into the cortex. 

Now simple flight is coordination. It is harmony of impulses 
and highly satisfying to the organism. Any obstruction to such 
activities, however, whether due to external hindrances like bound 
hands and feet, or to the antagonism of a counter-impulse like that 
of turning back to get valuable documents, is highly dissatisfying, 
if the process ends in mere accumulation of undischarged stimula- 
tion. It is what we have called external conflict. But it is internal 
conflict if there is a ready diffusion throughout the higher cortical 
areas producing such vivid imagery as that to which we referred. 
This activity of the mind generally assuages the distress of the frus- 
trated impulses, even though no overt action results. Thus coordi- 
nation is conservative of values; internal conflict is creative of 
values; external conflict is destructive of values. The values con- 
served by coordination consist of the habitual functioning of the 
organism; the values created by internal conflict consist of newly 
generated mental activities. 

What are the conditions which render possible this creative func- 
tion of conflict ? They consist of a certain plasticity and heightened 
tonus of the cortex as a whole. We would quote C. J. Herrick on 
this point. 3 He says that the period during which the creative 
tendency is dominant in man is "limited to the age during which 
the association centers, whose form is not predetermined in heredity, 
remain plastic and capable of modification under environmental 

a Introduction to Neurology, p. 315. 



638 THE JOURNAL OF PHILOSOPHY 

influence. Ultimately even the cerebral cortex matures and loses 
its power of reaction except in fixed modes. Its specialized tissue- 
originally a diffuse and equipotential nervous meshwork โ€” becomes 
more or less rigid. The docile period is past, and though the man 
may continue to improve in the technic of his performance, he can 
no longer do creative work. . . . "Whether this process occurs at 
the age of 20 or 80 years, it is the beginning of senility. . . . Many 
a boy's brains are curdled and squeezed into traditional artificial 
molds before he leaves the grades at school . . . senile sclerosis of 
the mind has begun by the time he has learned his trade." 

This improvement "in the technic of performance" which takes 
place when "the docile period is past" is precisely that state of 
mind which renders impossible the creative function of thwarted 
impulse. In this condition coordination reaches its maximum, and 
the greatest efficiency in conserving old values is attained, but the 
creation of new values is relatively impossible. Or, even more 
pertinent, interest in the growth of new experience is dead. The 
onward-pressing consciousness which appears in the form of curi- 
osity, speculative philosophy, and progressive religion is no longer 
present. The highest moral principle for such a mind is coordina- 
tion, because it is only by this method that such a person can realize 
his largest range of values. But that does not mean that coordina- 
tion is absolutely the best method. It is only second best; it is the 
last resort when creative functions fail. 

Of course, the degree to which the mind loses its plasticity and 
becomes rigidly specialized not only varies greatly from person to 
person, but also in the same person from time to time. Anything 
which increases the neural resistance of the higher centers, such as 
fatigue, ill-health, or the chronic persistence of some gross passion, 
will do this. The "dope fiend" can not tolerate frustration of his 
desire for opium or cocaine. Any such obstruction is for him dead 
loss of value without any compensating creativity of the mind. In 
like manner any highly specialized tendency, stereotyped by habit, 
will not readily yield up its energy to the diffusive activity of the 
cortex. 

But the normal youthful mind among the higher types of 
humanity seems to have a predisposition to act in this creative 
manner. The unspecialized tissue, unconstrained by any funda- 
mental pattern, tends to function as a whole. Of course this is not 
meant to imply that the brain has no pattern. A mere confused 
agitation of the cortex would not even be dreaming. But we mean 
that any increase in the stimulation which reaches the cortex will 
tend to overflow from any established paths, and pour into new 
channels, thus forming new connections throughout the neural 



PSYCHOLOGY AND SCIENTIFIC METHODS 539 

mechanism. Many things may conspire to make this overflow more 
difficult, such as the deep plowing of specialized channels by long- 
established habits rigidly stereotyped; the persistence and over- 
whelming force of some specialized passion ; the hardening of tissue 
which comes with age; the inertia of fatigue, etc. Nevertheless, in 
the healthy vigorous human organism there is a persistent tendency 
to multiply and diversify the activities of the mind. This might 
almost be called an instinct of creativity, a predisposition to form 
new combinations of older units of activity through this function- 
ing of the unspecialized processes. 

But this interest in creativity can be satisfied, this forming of 
new combinations becomes possible, only when some sort of problem 
arises. But a problem only means that some two or more impulses 
conflict with each other. So we reach the conclusion that discord 
of interests is a value because it is the sole condition which satisfies 
one of the inalienable interests of human nature, namely, the interest 
in creativity. Whether the mutual thwarting of impulses does, or 
does not, have value depends on whether there exists in the indi- 
vidual this state of mind, this onward-pressing consciousness, which 
seeks that satisfaction found in the forming of new combinations and 
the consequent growth in the range and vividness of consciousness. 
For such a mind all experience would have positive value, the con- 
flicts as well as the harmonies, just so far as all experience is in- 
tegrated in the growth of an expanding consciousness. Hence, the 
supreme moral achievement would be the establishment of such a 
state of mind, since it is this attitude and no other which can 
mediate the maximum quantity of positive value. It is this crea- 
tive mood which realizes the greatest wealth of good. 

The fundamental ethical proposition of the Freudian Wish by 
Professor Holt is that all conflict of desires or wishes is morally 
evil ; and that the way of righteousness is to resolve this conflict in 
such a way as to preserve both antagonistic interests without the 
suppression of either. Conflict, as Holt demonstrates, arises from 
the simultaneous arousal of two antagonistic responses, one of ap- 
proach or acceptance, the other of avoidance or rejection. But such 
opposition can only occur, he maintains, when the good and bad 
features in the object of desire have not been discriminated and so 
separated in consciousness as to allow positive response to the good 
and negative response to the bad. By such discrimination the an- 
tagonistic impulses are dissociated so that they no longer thwart 
each other. 

He illustrates this conception of moral procedure by two in- 
stances which are worthy of becoming classic. Suppose you happen 
upon some mushrooms. You like mushrooms and want to eat them. 



640 THE JOURNAL OF PHILOSOPHY 

But on recalling that some species are poisonous you draw back. 
Here is a conflict of impulses. What shall you do about it ? Hasten 
to a learned friend or the Encyclopedia and ascertain the distinc- 
tive features of poisonous and wholesome mushrooms, respectively, 
so that you can readily and accurately distinguish the two; then 
you will no longer have that disagreeable experience of trying to 
eat mushrooms with the feeling that you are taking poison. Like- 
wise he exhorts the young lady from the country not to suppress 
her interest in the theater and the friendly companionship to be 
had in the hours of recreation after work. Neither should she sever 
her relations with the church and other activities which conform 
with the moral instructions received in her country home. But she 
must learn the difference between the good and the bad features of 
the theater, seek the one, avoid the other and thereby save her soul. 

There are just three possibilities in case of such conflicts as 
these, says Professor Holt. First, suppress one of the two antago- 
nistic impulses in order to follow the other ; second, vacillate between 
the two, giving part time to one, and part time to the other ; third, 
the process of discrimination and coordination. If either of the 
first two methods is followed, the minimum of value is realized, for 
both suppression and vacillation mar the satisfaction of the interest 
which for the time being is dominant. 

We have proposed a fourth possibility ; and we believe Professor 
Holt inadvertently delivers himself over to our position. He does 
so when describing the state of mind of the wise virgin who goes to 
the theater with the resolve to find some means of enjoying the good 
which the theater may offer without incurring the evil which she 
knows is there. Her attitude toward the theater as she accompanies 
her escort to the place of amusement that first night, is described by 
Holt thus : ' ' The theater 's attractive and repulsive aspects, not being 
dissociated (in her mind) work on one another directly, and this 
balanced interplay works itself out in a discriminating line of con- 
duct." 4 Now this status of "balanced interplay" of antagonistic 
reactions is manifestly not a case of coordinated response. It is 
not what Holt calls integration. To be sure he immediately de- 
scribes how it may lead to coordinated action. Nevertheless, this 
state of mind in which the young lady attends the theater for the 
first time, this antagonism of "motor attitudes" does, according to 
Professor Holt's own statement, give "full play to all the indi- 
vidual's tendencies, and these are invariably to avoid evil." 8 But 
is not this organization? It is organization under the dominant 
purpose of avoiding evil. Yet it is not coordination. It is the 

< E. B. Holt, The Freudian Wish, p. 123. 
ยป Ibid., p. 124. 



PSYCHOLOGY AND SCIENTIFIC METHODS 541 

conflict of two motor attitudes maintained in "balanced interplay." 
It is a case of antagonistic responses being integrated prior to the 
dissolution of their antagonism. Moreover, if it gives "full play 
to all the individual's tendencies" it must have immediate value; 
it must be a state of consciousness which is valued for its own sake, 
not merely as a means. The burden of our whole argument has 
been to demonstrate this positive and independent value of mental 
excitement. Is not this acceleration of mental process, this quicken- 
ing of the powers of judgment and appreciation, that which above 
all else we cherish most ? 

It is possible to respond to an object as the concretion of all its 
qualities, i. e., as an individual, only when each quality arouses a 
corresponding sensori-motor reaction. But this total complex of 
responses in the form of impulses or modes of motor readiness to act 
when simultaneously aroused, can not possibly be coordinated. All 
the several qualities of any concrete object demand such a diversity 
of reactions that it is impossible that they should be harmoniously 
adjusted. Hence, when one responds to an object as an individual, 
a great number of sensori-motor activities arrest each other, and 
are held in a state of active equilibration. 

Now, when there arises this state of equilibrated conflict which 
constitutes response to a concrete individual, one experiences a more 
or less intense feeling which in its divers forms may be humor, or 
love, or esthetic appreciation, or religious rapture as well as other 
states of consciousness which our language may or may not dis- 
tinguish with a descriptive name. But in all such cases there is 
play of the imagination, a roaming of the fancy. It is out of such 
states of consciousness that some of the most remarkable mechanical 
inventions, the greatest works of art, and the noblest prophetic 
utterances of religious seers have arisen. Do such uncoordinated 
responses, constituting the total reaction to an individual, have no 
immediate value? Artists, lovers, religious devotees would rise in 
revolt at such a negative suggestion. Socrates loved such antagon- 
isms as these. He scarcely argued in order to reach a final con- 
clusion or agreement. He argued for the sake of the "midwifery" 
involved in it. Socratic midwifery represents the creative value 
of conflict which we are trying to describe. 

When Professor Holt goes on to the further illustration of the 
mushrooms, he ignores the fact of uncoordinated organization alto- 
gether. In fact he never admits it except by accident. Accord- 
ing to this further statement, his conduct does not become integrated 
until he has clearly distinguished the two kinds of mushrooms so 
that he is able to respond to each as a distinct entity. He does not 
admit any intervening state of consciousness, like that which the 



542 THE JOURNAL OF PHILOSOPHY 

young lady enjoyed, consisting of a "balanced interplay of motor 
attitudes" which was satisfying in itself. On the contrary, in the 
case of the mushrooms, he integrates his conduct only by disin- 
tegrating the object of response, i. e., by selecting one single quality 
from that totality of qualities which constitutes mushroom and re- 
acting to that isolated quality alone. 

But if integration of conduct, which is the criterion of moral 
behavior, proceeds only by the disintegration of the environment, 
the possibility of reacting to the totality of the universe as an indi- 
vidual becomes more and more remote as ethical behavior becomes 
perfected. Therefore if religion be, as Holt seems to imply, response 
to the universe as a single object or totality, moral development 
moves away from religion rather than toward it. 

But the only point which we now wish to make is to show the 
necessity of giving place beside coordination for this second prin- 
ciple of procedure which is no less moral and no less a mediator 
of value than is coordination. It is impossible to regard conflict of 
tendencies as merely a means to the attainment of harmonious action, 
because in actual experience it is not so. If we did subordinate 
conflict to the place of means and maintain harmony as the end 
of all moral regulation, the greater part of human life would become 
a dreary desert to be traversed for the sake of the little oases of 
coordination which are scattered here and there throughout the ex- 
panse. For the most of our life is given over to adjusting unco- 
ordinated activities, to the breaking down of outworn systems and 
the building up of new ones, only to find them inadequate, or very 
quickly becoming inadequate again. The history of ethical prac- 
tise and principle shows how continuous has been this process of 
casting into the junk pile the systems which yesterday were con- 
structed with such care. If this process of breaking down and 
building up, essentially a process of conflicts and maladjustments, 
has no independent value in itself, but is merely a means to the 
attainment of those precarious and transitory periods when an 
established coordination is able to function adequately, how miser- 
able does human existence appear! If morality is the quantitative 
enlargement of the total good of human life, I can imagine no moral 
achievement more significant than the procedure which would make 
maladjustment and discord as such a form of positive value. 

Henry Nelson "Wieman. 

TUJUNGA, 

California.